Pandemic Playbook from Amber Engine: What Should Furniture Suppliers Do During Covid-19?

  •    Author: Mike Jasfer

With Stay Home orders beginning to lift across the country, many businesses are announcing re-opening strategies. Have you created your reopening plan? Are you working the time between wisely?

Given recent media updates and medical guidelines, a return to work will likely involve staggered segments and small groups. If you’re not already, now is the best time to have conversations with your leadership team. Determine which waves of employees should come in first, second, third and so on. Who is most needed to refuel your business’s restart? What protections should be in place? Once a firm plan is put in place, clearly and consistently communicate it to your teams. 
What your company does during this strange, in-between period determines how quickly your facility will ramp up in what will, undoubtedly, become “the new normal.” 
Some companies are using the gap between planning and implementation to strengthen top of the funnel marketing, deepen customer relationships and move products online. 
Moving products to an online catalog, of course, is a time-consuming task. That’s why this is an ideal time to get started. Yes, it involves tackling the myriad “master” spreadsheets and brushing up product data with specs and detail, but, in the end, the result will be well worth the effort. Once products are loaded on eComm sites, it creates a sales opportunity whether your retail stores’ doors are open or closed. 
For those of you who miss the energy of interaction and feel the weary wear of Stay Home orders creeping in, you could take a page from Jaipur’s book. They launched a series called “Trade Talk” on Instagram to bring industry professionals together. “We want to help trade professionals connect with each other digitally during this time of social distancing,” said Carl Henrickson, director of brand and digital marketing for Jaipur Living.
Whatever part of the supply chain you’re in, get crafty with your connection points, and find innovative ways to connect with others. You may not endeavor for something as grand as a live group on social media, but you can invite others to a call or reach out to someone on a one-to-one basis. We’re human, and we desperately need connection, stimulation and conversation right now. We need it, not only for our sanity but for the inspiration and creative spark needed to pull our businesses back when all is said and done.
If all of this has you in a philanthropic state of mind, grab onto the inspiration to help others during this time. Classic Brands donated thousands of pillows and beds to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals on the front lines of this disease. In an interview, Classic’s CEO, Scott Burger said, “Classic Brands firmly believes that everyone has a role to play in the battle against Covid-19, and organizations that are in a position to contribute should step up.”
If you feel compelled to answer the charitable acts call, it may not mean that you donate goods directly. Depending on the product(s) you supply, it may make more sense to donate time or the use of your facility for the greater good.
Of course, if you’re finding yourself in an introspective and financially cautious place, this is a great time to take stock of things. Think about the lessons you’ve learned during the warning period, cautionary period and immersion – whether your eyes have been opened to the importance of supply chain diversification or that disinfection measures should be upped throughout the year.
You may also give some brain space to the way your company would handle a rinse and repeat of Stay Home orders. Just because we begin to reopen business doesn’t mean business will stay open. Use what you learned over the last few weeks to better manage the time until a vaccine is developed and risk reduced. 
After all, it pays to have ideas in place for a quick pivot. Skyline Furniture learned to listen ahead of the curve. When the coronavirus surfaced in China and began taking a toll on manufacturing and shipping, they took steps to protect themselves from impact in the event the virus spread here.
There are countless lessons buried within this experience. Whether you’re adjusting the way you do business or the way you handle employees and customers, the time away from chaos is rich with change and growth.
Unfortunately, though, our companies’ change and growth doesn’t mean an immediate return to work. Thanks to a bevy of federal, state and local requirements and guidelines, reopening plants and production facilities will be different for everyone. 
Whatever you choose to do with your facility, keep a positive, people-first view, and your crew’s absence from the office won’t be in vain. You now have the time you once wished for . . . to answer a need, give back, change the way you do business or add an online store to your business. Your options are endless, and your business will be better for it when we all finally emerge from seclusion ready to get back to regularly scheduled programming.
See the previous post in this series, Your Crisis Contribution.
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